Landscape archaeology of the later farming communities of the Shashe-Limpopo Basin, Eastern Botwsana: land use diversity and human behaviour
Mothulatshipi, Sarah Mantshadi
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The Shashe-Limpopo Basin (SLB) is a prehistoric landscape with an extreme and extraordinary dynamic environment and it is by no coincidence it has attracted a considerable amount of research attention that contributed invaluably to the understanding of socio-cultural and economic changes in Southern Africa. Attention has, however, remained heavily skewed and sites explicitly targeted for investigation were those which could offer insights in the development of social complexity. This thesis investigates a part of the SLB situated on the Botswana side at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers. This study demonstrates with a combination of practical methodological approaches that the development of complex social formations represents settlement structures that epitomise interaction of both long and short-term cultural and economic processes and that the organisation of such structures is randomly distributed throughout the landscape. The application of remote sensing techniques, in particular aerial photography, reveals how the attributes possessed by the landscape dictated on the human land-use and management strategies at the confluence zone of the SLB. Essentially this approach has provided the background of this study and the results obtained shows how this area remained unexplored because of its geomorphological setting and the otherwise poor visibility of archaeological sites that could parallel in size and status neighbouring sites across the political boundaries. Furthermore, the analysis of landscape attributes using GIS spatial and geochemical datasets on located sites suggests a significant influence by the terrain units on the type of activities undertaken. It is evident that the fluctuating environmental conditions of the SLB, made human habitation of the floodplain problematic and restricted settlement and social organisation to its periphery largely on high ground and hill summits, whilst different parts of the floodplain terrain were exploited as water sources, cultivation and grazing resources leaving erosional gullies, pediments and track marks. The phosphate concentration variations at Tuli Circle 2, points to the variations in site activities and calls for a revisit to the long standing belief that white ‘patchy’ areas (or savanna glades) are cattle or animal enclosures.The findings of this research have also revealed, through the use of x-ray powder diffraction analysis, that the geochemistry of ceramic samples from the study sites varies within and between excavation levels, sites and clay sources suggesting that they were probably not locally produced. This further suggests that pots as movable items could have reached the area through trade or exchange. An implication of this observation is that pots, like people, have social and economic contexts and need to be understood through the issues of variety and interaction at local and regional levels. Based on these findings, this study calls for more integrated methods of ceramic analysis in order to understand their sources and production techniques, instead of the traditional but constrained typologies which were used to define migrations and identify human groups along ethnic lines. The results are considered useful and they can help in fine-tuning existing knowledge regarding known and used ceramic types of artefacts, within this new conceptual framework of a landscape whose history is now better understood. In light of the proposed Trans Frontier Park, the techniques used in this research are crucial for the discovery and documentation of sites needed for regional policy formulation and development planning.